The odd superfluity of truth

It’s striking to notice just how superfluous truth is. Truth is not just a judgment, but an affirmation of how this judgment stands to us with respect to its truth, and such an affirmation adds nothing to the practical value of the judgment or even the fact of the thing judged. Animals, for example, maneuver their way through the world just fine without giving any sign of recognizing that the information they are working from is true. A monkey jumps from one branch to another or fishes termites out of a hill without ever noticing that it is true that he can reach them, and truth would not, in fact, help it judge vines any more effectively or find any more termites.

The superfluity of truth is not confined to practical truths. What does truth add to the idea that two and two are four, or that the earth goes around the sun? Truth is something in addition to these facts  (even if it is not another proposition over and above the proposition judged to be true) but the fact seems to exhaust all that is relevant to know, whether in the practical or speculative order.

Truth only matters to the extent that a subject decides to involve himself in a fact, and chooses to see this involvement as something in addition to the fact.  Truth is to this extent something over and above fact. The paradox is that while it seems to be the most superfluous and unnecessary thing, it is consistently judged to be a thing of the greatest value. One would not die for the facts or swear an oath to uphold them.



  1. E.R. Bourne said,

    August 29, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I understand what you are saying here but I would like to know what your response would be to the objection that a monkey would not be able to jump to a certain branch if it was not true that he could reach it.

    The same may be said of your mathematical example. If it were not true that two plus two were four then two plus two would not equal four. When looked at this way, truth becomes critical. I almost want to say that it is the only thing that matters.

  2. August 29, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I don’t see the objection. I agree that every fact S is P requires that it is true that S is P, what I deny is that the “S” in question knows the truth (which would be obvious for the truth that, say, “Acid is able to dissolve plastic”) or that the notion of truth would help the S to do what it is doing, or even (usually) understand what he is understanding (I say “usually” since some speculative endeavors are about things as true – like logic- and all of them are about truth so far as they are speculative, though not this speculative science).

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